June 18, (THEWILL) – Former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Chief Olabode George, speaks on the 1999 Constitution and its impact on national development, Atiku Abubakar’s candidacy and Peter Obi’s exit from PDP, among other issues, in this interview with AYO ESAN. Excerpts:
What is the way forward for Nigeria?
We need to change the system of governance. Nothing has been working in Nigeria since 1999. The Constitution we are running is a fake one. It is only good for a military government and not for a democratic country. It places too much power at the centre. It is not working. We need to revisit the constitutional conference of 2014 because it is the only solution to our present challenges in the country.
We need to bring governance closer to the people so that they can make the necessary impact to improve the standard of living. This will bring competition and regional cooperation. The idea of all resources going to Abuja for redistribution is not helping us.
We need to allow everybody to develop at his own pace. There is no part of this that God has not endowed with one natural resource or the other. If you mismanage those resources, your people will challenge you. Each state will have to contribute a certain percentage to maintain the structure at the centre.
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What then is the solution to the insecurity ravaging the nation?
The staff strength of the Nigeria Police Force is inadequate to meet the country’s security challenges. We need community and state police. As developed as it is, the United States of America has local government police, state police, Federal Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). That is what we need in Nigeria. It will also create jobs.
If you take a look at the state of local government areas in Nigeria, you will find that the majority of the chairmen cannot even define the function of a local government. If the government is so close to the people at the grassroots, there will be fewer problems at the national level.
The first responsibility of any government at any level is the security of lives and properties. Who is safe now in Nigeria, irrespective of status?
Nigerian politics is riddled with tribal and religious sentiments. Aren’t you worried about this?
I have never seen this nation as bad as what we are witnessing today. We are now facing a lack of cohesion, religious and tribal intolerance. In 1914, the British colonialists united us for the purpose of economic interest. Having existed for over 100 years, I believe we should be at par with the so-called developed countries by now.
When I look at what is happening in my own part of the world, I feel sad. My immediate older sister was born in Christian home, but she married a Muslim she met in school. She was converted to Islam and attended Koranic School. Today she is addressed as an Alhaja.We live together in harmony. She invites me to events hosted at the mosque where she worships and I attend. I also have a younger brother who is a Reverend Pastor. His wife was a Muslim and today she is a pastor. Nigeria is a secular state for God’s sake. How can we have degenerated to the level where the house of God will be desecrated. There is a great implication for that on Nigeria as a country.
What is your advice to the youth as we get set for another general election?
We are heading back into another serious election. The youth must not sit back now. They must get involved because that is the only opportunity they have to make an impact on their future. Who did they want to lead them? All these people parading themselves as presidential candidates must tell us their agendas for this country. We must hear it from their mouth and not from the third party. We want to hear them, we want to see and know who they are. This is not the time for those who are concerned about our nation to be quiet. I don’t want to talk as a politician, but as a Nigerian. I got a bit disturbed when I saw the kind of candidates that some political parties have chosen. It gives me a heavy heart. Is that the best this nation can produce?
The campaigns will begin soon. We want the candidates to come and tell us their views on some of the challenges facing the nation.
I pity the youths of nowadays. I remember that about 52 years ago when I graduated from the University of Lagos, there were eight students in my department, Electrical Engineering. Most of us got jobs before we wrote our final examination. Can you dream of that now?
Do you think that INEC will conduct a credible election in 2023?
While I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for the new electoral law, which ends the era of physical movement of election results and gives no room for changing of figures from point A to point B. I am throwing a bold challenge to the Chairman of INEC, Prof Yakubu Mahmood. I know him personally, we have worked together before. Although he is trustworthy and god-fearing, I need to remind him that he is concluding the apex of his career as Chairman of INEC. He has built a good career; he should let the concluding part be in gold.
He must be honest as he used to be. He was the treasurer of the National Conference of 2014 and he performed well. I am challenging him to help this nation. I watched the French election held recently, it started exactly at 7am in the morning and by 7pm voting closed. By 7:15pm the lady that lost the election congratulated the other party and I was impressed. Didn’t we have the competence to do that in this country?
Some people believe that the Atiku Abubakar candidacy will not produce positive results. Citing the poor handling of privatisation of government businesses under his supervision, they think he is coming back to finish what is left of the collective patrimony. What is your reaction to this? What are the chances of your party regaining power with Atiku as the presidential candidate?
Do you think that if the government businesses were not privatised, they would still be functioning? Look at them as private organisations and government business and compare them to the way they are being run. Government is the worst manager of business anywhere in the world. Governance, the radar at which people move, does not give you that continuity you want in government business. Someone will just be a director there and muddle up things. Every four years they change the directors, but where are the account book and balance sheet? How many government- owned businesses were presenting their balance sheets?
Before the privatisation took place, the government allocated money to them. What happened to Nigeria Airways? You will recall there was a time they were taking the aircrafts from Nigeria to Dubai to Saudi Arabia, they claimed they went on C-checks. Where is the report on the C-checks? What happened to our electricity? It is the production of power that limits the distribution and they said the power sector was sold to wealthy people, but it is the production that prevents their distribution. The Federal government is supposed to produce power, but if it does not produce, what will it distribute?
When these companies were sold, people bought them. The moment another government came on board, it was supposed to investigate how the companies were sold and who got what? The government is almost eight years-old now, what has happened? Because now that they have been privatised, the companies are managed as public trust and every four years they are expected give account.
The chances of our party in all the elections are bright, nobody imposed any candidate. The candidates emerged on their merit and we don’t carry that much money. In politics you need money, but it is mind boggling when you hear the amount the APC sold their presidential nomination form. When I saw some of my younger friends who picked up the form for N100 million and took the time to campaign and run around, on the day of their primary, in two minutes they were dropped off like rotten apples. But whatever we do today, the honour or dishonour remains with us. I watched Pastor Tunde Bakare, he said he watched some of his friends stepping down, but he would not step down, but he would step up.
For our party, like I told you for every question they asked Bola Tinubu, every Nigerian has that right to ask our own candidate too, because he has offered himself. We have looked at his credential and supported it. Nigerians know what is good for themselves. They should choose between the two.
Peter Obi regards you as a father. Why did he leave the PDP for another political party? What happened? Won’t his exit impact negatively on your party?
When I heard he had left the party, I was shell shocked. He is a man that I have so much respect and regard for, in terms of his quality and his human feeling. I tried to call him on the phone, but I could not reach him. I have read some of his comments on why he left in the newspapers.
You see, politics is an experience, unless you are into it, you can’t master it . Genuinely and honestly, people will annoy you, they will insult you intentionally, but your inner self, the God you serve will be with you. I had my own low time, I was sent to prison for doing absolutely nothing.
But the conspirators, I called them convoluted conspirators, thought that they had silenced me forever. They forgot the kind of family I come from. My grandfather, Herbert Macaulay, was in and out of prison many times under the colonial régime. When my mummy was told it was a conspiracy, she urged me to fire on.
No matter what, God did not tell you the highway of life will always be free. Sometimes it gets quite tough. If you still believe and trust in your God at the moment of trial you will come out.
I was very disappointed when I was told that Obi left the PDP. I was really disturbed because a rolling stone gathers no moisture. He started with the PDP. Then he said somebody had annoyed him he left the PDP for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). When the same people angered him in Anambra State, he came back to the PDP.
With my experience in life, one has to stay there and fight it out. If I had thought that way, I wouldn’t even be here. I would be ashamed of myself and hide myself somewhere. Whatever the chairman of the convoluted conspiracy has in mind does not bother me. Whatever God has destined me to be, I will be. What he does not destined me to be I will not be. As a man, Obi should have stayed and faced the challenge.
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